Juppe Says He Won't Be a Stand-In Candidate in French Race

  • Republican grandee calls his party’s election campaign a mess
  • Candidate Fillon facing criminal charges and calls to quit

France's Fillon Vows to Remain in Presidential Race

Alain Juppe, a former prime minister who was defeated in the Republican party primary, said he won’t step in as a replacement candidate in France’s presidential election.

“I confirm, once and for all, that I will not be candidate for the presidency,” Juppe, 71, said in a televised statement Monday.

Alain Juppe

Photographer: Georges Gobet/AFP via Getty Images

Juppe’s party is trying to salvage its presidential campaign with candidate, Francois Fillon, facing criminal charges for allegedly embezzling public funds. As recently as two months ago, 63-year-old Fillon, another former premier, was the front-runner in France’s most important election in decades. Now he’s facing mounting calls to withdraw.

Juppe’s decision leaves Fillon in place, for now at least, as Republican chieftains prepare to meet this evening in Paris to decide on a plan to take on the far-right candidate Marine Le Pen and independent contender Emmanuel Macron.

The extra yield investors demand to hold French 10-year bonds instead of their German equivalents increased by five basis points to 63 basis points on Monday. The difference in yields narrowed 16 basis points last week.

Speaking from Bordeaux where he is mayor, Juppe criticized the increasingly fractured political landscape, attacking the 39-year-old Macron for being politically “immature” and blasting Fillon for “radicalizing” the center-right’s base at a demonstration in Paris Sunday.

“Never under the Fifth Republic has there been an election under such confused conditions,” Juppe said. “As for us -- what a mess.”

Calls for Change

While Le Pen’s chances of victory are limited by France’s two-round electoral process, growing anger at politicians both for breaking promises and enriching themselves could increase the risk of an upset. Polls so far project that Le Pen would win the first round on April 23 and then be defeated comfortably in the runoff on May 7.

Juppe, 71, said that his age and his own involvement in political and legal scandal in the 1990s mean that he is not the right person for the job now.

“I don’t embody renewal, the desire for which seems greater than the need for experience,” he said. “For me it is too late. It is obviously not too late for France.”

— With assistance by Gregory Viscusi, Helene Fouquet, and Geraldine Amiel

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